J/33 Articles & Reviews

J/33 Sailing World Review

The new J/33 is a handsome, simply styled performer with excellent helm response, an easily driven hull, a clean open deck, and a no-fuss interior. This design, conceived to excel in light to moderate air, is a cross between the J/27 and J/35 hull types with proportionally longer waterline, yet the same distinctive J/Boat bow and cabin house.

Designer Rod Johnstone conceived the boat as an entry-level offshore one-design with strict class rules written to allow low-cost ownership and equitable competition. He borrowed the "bath tub" cockpit from his IOR J/34, allowing ample working room underway on any point of sail. All sail controls lead neatly to the companionway, making easy work of any adjustments.
The boat lives up to performance expectations as evidenced by a first in class at its debut regatta, Block Island Race Week. With the combination of full main and 130 in eight knots of breeze, I found the helm lively, but a challenge to balance upwind.

On deck and below, the J/33 epitomizes simplicity. The cabin is open and all aspects are completely functional. Weight is saved on deck by leading the running backstay tails forward and up to the secondaries, yet owners may want to rethink this arrangement as it ties up the weather side secondary. Racers may also want to lead hydraulic controls forward from the backstay.

-Daniel Dickison



Baltek Contourkore end grained balsa laminated with biaxial and unidirectional roving, and vinylester resin on the outer hull layer for blister resistance. Main bulkhead is molded GRP, faced with a teak veneer and bonded to hull and deck with three layers of glass tape. Solid transverse fiberglass beams over the keel provide additional rigidity. Winch bases are reinforced with marine grade ply and extra glass, and stanchions are mounted on solid gloss. Hull lamination schedule meets Lloyd's standards.


Lines are pure and pleasing, moderately narrow beam and low freeboard, with a short raised cabin and slightly reversed transom, Conventional lead fin keel, bolted, epoxy-bonded, and glass wrapped at joint to deep molded structural sump. Continuous Navtec rod rigging on a fully anodized two spreader masthead Kenyon spar. Martec 14 x 14 folding prop.


Layout is open and clean with genoa tracks well inboard and on the toe rail. Cockpit has no ino, but an ample bridgedeck and a wide deep well with centerline foot tails. Two cabin hatches and opening portlights provide more than adequate ventilation below. Standard hardware includes Lewmar winches, Spinlock halyard stoppers, 6:1 Harken mainsheet system, and 3:1 Harken traveler system, Sparcraft pneumatic solid boom vang with 12:1 Harken purchase system, and a Navtec hydraulic backstay adjuster.


Simple and functional. Almost six feet of headroom under cabin trunk no obstructions in main cabin. Teak and holly cabin sole, with teak veneer elsewhere and light laminate on counter surfaces. Two settee berths and optional V-berth forward make up the sleeping accommodations. Galley is spartan and split athwartships with ice box to starboard and sink and two burner stove to port.


Fresh water, 30 gallon molded tank. Fuel, 15 gallon aluminum tank with gauge and inspection port. Two 90 amp deep cycle batteries, electrical panel includes battery condition meters.

J/33 Yachting Magazine Review

Ever since he designed the J/24, Rod Johnstone has made a name for himself building fast racing/cruising boats with a bent toward performance. Now comes the latest J/Boat, the J/33, with a planing hull. It is the talk of the dock as it more than maintains this builder's go-fast tradition.

Johnstone's idea of building an affordable, fast sailboat that is comfortable for the entire family to race has been well documented (see "Boat of the Decade," January 1988). His success with that initial design - the J/24 - and all subsequent designs over the past 10 years is already a part of yachting lore. So it was with great anticipation that many sailors awaited the arrival of the new J/33 this spring.

Like others before it, the J/33 is a racing machine with its roots in small-boat sailing. Its sailing characteristics are similar to that of a dinghy responsive steering, quick acceleration and sensitivity to weight. But the accommodations are that of a cruiser.

The 33 is an attempt by J/Boats to provide a boat with adequate headroom below while maintaining the distinctive, graceful lines of its predecessors. At the same time the price is well suited to those not willing to stray near the magic $100,000 mark.

As expected, the J/33 makes its biggest statement on the race course. The deck layout is simple and straight forward with a cockpit that is, by any definition, huge. It is the same size as the cockpit of the J/34 (a boat once built for the International Offshore Rule) that has since been discontinued. Measuring 10.5' x 9' on the deck and 7.5' x 4.5' in the well, its size is accomplished by a lack of seats, leaving plenty of room for the crew while keeping the helmsman away from flying elbows. When we took her for a sail we had seven people aboard and found little difficulty staying out of each other's way and running the boat smoothly, even during a spinnaker set. Out of the box, the boat is ready to sail. Standard are #46 Lewmar primaries and #40 secondaries, a 6:1 Harken mainsheet system and a 3:1 Harken traveler system.

Another dramatic part of the boat is the size of the main. At 290 sq. ft. it is much larger proportionally compared with the J/35, making jib changes easier for a family and the boat faster downwind.

While the 33 is closest in size to the 35, its hull characteristics more closely match that of the 27. The 33 has much less volume below the waterline than has the 35, with a finer, narrower hull and a more vertical bow.

The hull of the 33 is also a bit flatter than that of the 35 while the stern is proportionally narrower than most other J/Boats. It is, in short, a planing hull, and Johnstone claims the boat is just that.
Combined with a large inboard rudder (7.5 sq. ft. that is well aft), the boat is easily driven. We had no trouble controlling her on a tight spinnaker reach in 10 to 15 knots of air and never got the sensation that we were going to lose control. The 33 is built with balsa laminate construction with biaxial and unidirectional glass roving with vinylester resin on the hull and comes with a I0?year warranty against blistering.

A first-place finish in division for hull No. 14, If Only, at Audi Yachting Race Week at Block Island proved the boat is fast. The other J/33 in the division, Hoodlum, finished in a tie for fourth in a division that included four Express 37s and three Tripp 37s. Each of the two Block Island boats had a PHRF rating of 87 ? it's estimated that most of the 33s will rate between 81 and 87. An International Measurement System (IMS) rating has yet to be established.

Belowdecks the interior faithfully follows the J/Boat philosophy: functional, with no attempts to be fancy. The J/33 has two quarter and two settee berths with a small galley to port and a nav station with ice box to starboard. Forward of the bulkhead is a head along with a forepeak that can either be empty for racing or hold a V-berth.

The latest addition to the J/Boat fleet - now run by Johnstone's sons, Jeff and Alan, is everything one would expect: fast, easy to sail and fun to cruise.

-Charles Barthold

Sailing Magazine Review- Bob Perry

"Utilitarian Performer/Cruiser from J/Boats"

I was standing with Capt. Putam looking over the drawings for the new J33 and I thought to myself, "If you've seen one J/Boat, you've seen them all." This profile and plan view are like old friends.

The basic shape and overall approach have matured since the first J/24, but it really has not changed. This J/33 is a little sister to the highly successful J/35. The target market is sailors eager for close one-design racing and forays into IMS and PHRF fleets. Strict class rules are written and intended to minimize the expense of maintaining a competitive J-33. Standard equipment for a 33 includes rod rigging, hydraulic backstay, Harken rudder bearings. It appears to me that the Johnstones are trying to build a little race boat with an extremely well thought out list of standard items that will prevent anyone from needing to change from the one-design format someone always finds a way.

With a D/L ratio of 165, the J/33 is a medium light boat with enough displacement to give it a well rounded range of effective performance. The midsection shows some deadrise which diminishes as you go aft and accentuates going forward into a V-shaped entry. Overhangs are minimal making the most out of sailing length for the 33 feet. Beam at 11 feet is moderate by today's standards and the stern is drawn in J/24 and J/35 style. This is a nice upwind shape giving the J/Boats family a rock solid feel on the wind with sufficient power to let you feel like you are driving the boat to weather rather than feathering the boat to weather. Draft is 6.2 feet and the fin and rudder are typical of the J/Boats family. If there are any foil refinements the folks at J/Boats are not telling.

The interior could be comfortable for a small family to cruise. There is nothing fancy, just good berths and a semi-enclosed head. I suppose a dining table is optional. Also optional is a "removable forepeak with cushions and canvas curtain."

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The deck is the typical J/Boats deck with minimal camber and a boxy little cabintrunk. The beauty of this cabintrunk is that it accomplishes its headroom requirements in the minimum amount of space, leaving the deck clear for optimum placement of leads, tracks and winches. The deck is not cluttered with coamings around the cockpit. The Jacuzzi cockpit, so called I suppose, because of its rounded corners, is just a footwell for the helmsman and one trimmer. This type of deck layout is wonderful to work on. If you have never sailed on a deck like this, I think you will be surprised just how comfortable it really is when you are underway. Note the footrests next to the mainsheet traveler to help keep the helmsman up to weather. There is a toe rail forward that is replaced aft by genoa track along the rail.

The two spreader rig features slightly swept back spreaders. "Disappearing checkstays" are standard. I presume this is accomplished with a bullet block at the chainplates and some bungy cord.

The profile of the J/33 is uncluttered and simple. Despite the apparent lack of art in this case, I find myself liking this boat. Perhaps it has something to do with once having owned a J/Boat. They perform so well that it's hard to have any negative feelings about them. They are utilitarian and reward bountifully any effort on the crew's part.

Could it be that there is a touch of shape in that house top? I'm positive I see some camber in the transom. Either the Js are subtly changing or my own appreciation of them is.

The first of the new J/33s is now racing. I think we can expect this new J/Boat to be very competitive.